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reed magazine logoSummer 2008

Reed Commencement 2008

Post-graduation smiles in front of Eliot Hall.

Commencement speaker Michelle Nijhuis ’96.
Photo credit: Orin Bassoff

On the morning of May 19, President Colin Diver welcomed all those assembled for Reedís 94th commencement ceremony by professing, “I am a Reedie. And Iím proud of it!” The proceedings fell one day before the Oregon presidential primary, and Diver used the occasion to poke fun at the front-runners.

“The presidential candidates have all been in town lately. Hillary Clinton has been driving around Oregon in her pickup truck, with a dead elk strapped to the roof. Barack Obama, meanwhile, arrived in his new campaign bus, called the Elite Express, which I understand is powered exclusively by hot air,” Diver delivered to groans that grew into laughter. “John McCain, who apparently discovered global warming while in Oregon, arrived in his stretch Toyota Prius.”

The levity was followed by Diverís reflections on T.S. Eliotís Four Quartets. “Eliot meditates on time and timelessness. He reminds us how we are both defined and imprisoned by time, by the burdens of the past and the fears of the future. But he offers the hope of redemption from the tyranny of time, through the experience of living in timeless moments, moments perhaps like this one,” Diver said. “These moments, says Eliot, are Ďa new and shocking/ Valuation of all we have been.í They are reminders of where we have come from and how far we have traveled.”

Environmental writer Michelle Nijhuis í96 then delivered the commencement address, “Weirdness and the Importance of Responsible Rebellion,” which Gradspot.com cited as one of the best addresses of the year, putting Nijhuis in the company of Barack Obama, Tony Blair, and J.K. Rowling.

“The kind of weirdness Iím talking about has to do with a willingness to learn the canon, then rebel against it,” said Nijhuis. “Itís about a quiet but consistent suspicion of what youíre expected to do, what youíre told is possible. Itís about a willful mishearing of the conventional wisdom. Reed attracts people with these qualities, and it gives you the extraordinary privilegeóthe really extraordinary privilegeóof spending four years in each otherís company, when you get to challenge each other, teach each other, nurture each otherís particular weirdness. And that well-honed weirdness leads Reedies to amazing places.”

reed magazine logoSummer 2008